Repairs Start on Undersea Cable Cut Near UAE

BANGALORE (Reuters) – Repair work has started on one of three broken undersea cables providing data services to parts of the Middle East and Asia, a cable operator said, and a repair ship was expected to reach a second cable on Tuesday.

Undersea cable connections were disrupted off Egypt’s northern coast last week when segments of two international cables were cut, affecting Internet access in the Gulf region and South Asia, and forcing service providers to re-route traffic.

A third undersea cable, FALCON, was reported broken off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Friday and Indian-owned cable network operator FLAG Telecom said on Tuesday a ship had reached the location and repair work had started.

“FLAG repair team is operating in extreme weather conditions to ensure timely repairs,” the operator, a unit of India’s No. 2 mobile operator Reliance Communications, said on its Web site.

FLAG said another repair ship was likely to reach the location of the FLAG Europe-Asia cable, one of the two that were reported cut off the coast of Egypt.

Egypt lost more than half its Internet capacity because of the breaks last week and the telecommunications ministry said at the weekend it did not expect services to be back to normal for at least 10 days.

UAE telecom firm du said on Monday its Internet and telephone services were largely back to normal after it used a terrestrial cable across Saudi Arabia to circumvent the problem.

In India, Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association, said it would take at least eight to 10 days from the start of the repair work for Internet access to be restored completely.

India’s $11-billion back-office outsourcing industry, which provides a range of services like insurance claims processing and customer support to overseas clients over the Internet, says it has not been hurt by the cable disruption due to back-up plans.

Chharia said the impact of patchy access on other Indian businesses had been largely mitigated as most services providers had found new routes to restore communication.

The International Cable Protection Committee, an association of 86 submarine cable operators dedicated to safeguarding submarine cables, says more than 95 percent of transoceanic telecoms and data traffic are carried by submarine cables.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Charlotte Cooper)